[A book with four interlocking themes:
- how to communicate with the dead;
- the life of a 19th-century American;
- the massive task facing us today, and
- the physical world’s place in the scheme of things.]
.25. A Miracle Healing
I don’t claim that this is believable. I merely claim that it is true. In July 1994, when I knew a lot less about this stuff than I do now, I interacted with Joseph after he had been wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg. I wrote about it in muddy tracks, but here Joseph tells it from his side.
[Thursday, February 2, 2006]
(4 a.m.) I reckon you can hear it now, maybe. We’ll give it a try anyway and if it don’t work out, nothing much lost.
I was wounded at Gettysburg, you know. At least you sort of know. Back in ’94 you contacted me – the uncompleted me, a version of me that was in the battle at that time. You well remember but you never figured out what was going on, and how could anybody tell you? You didn’t have the concepts, you didn’t have the experience, you didn’t have the ability to overcome your own fears and just listen. Don’t mean any of that as chastisement, just pointing out the situation. In those days more than a decade out from where you are “now” – you were still thinking of individuals and hadn’t much idea of things being more organized over here, more all together, than
[Sorry, lost the beam, day-dreaming.]
9 p.m. Joseph, I deliberately stayed away all day, thinking perhaps I had overdone yesterday – though I must say, the work I did on the sins and virtues was hard enough, and no doubt involved contact with you all. Why were you contacting me so early in the morning? Were you thinking I’d be more open to influence then?
No, you had recharged your batteries, as you say, so I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity when you decided to clean off your computer. [Taking off Free Cell and other games.] But that helped drain your energies, and there wasn’t any reason for you not to go back to sleep.
I missed some dreams that I had had and didn’t record.
Faithfulness is all, you won’t lose by noticing and forgetting; dreams ain’t aimed at your consciousness necessarily. But that ain’t what I want to talk about – if your energy level is good enough at the end of another long day.
We can try, anyway.
All right. Well, when you contacted me on July 4, 1994 – or 1863, whichever way you want to look at it – I was out of my head with pain and fever and fatigue and all. We had won the battle but I didn’t know it. I saw this Johnny coming straight at me – one of a mob of ‘em – and he lifted that rifle of his about a mile in the air and came down with it like chopping wood, and if he’d hit my head I’d have been done for, on the spot. Not that it would have been a bad spot to die – on the crest of the ridge, stopping Pickett’s Charge, dying among so many of my friends—
Well, he missed my head – I was occupied with somebody else and couldn’t get all the way out of the way, though I tried – and just plowed into my back. It felt like I’d been shot. Thought I had been shot, in fact! Can’t quite figure out even yet why he didn’t break my back, I really can’t. You know where he hit me, or you used to, because you felt it. That was one of the things that passed across lifetimes, till you fixed it for me, and I thank you sincerely. I don’t expect you can figure it out, but I suffered from the thing the rest of my life – and then I didn’t, because you fixed it.
But to tell it in order. He hit me and I went down, pole-axed sure, and that is the last I remember of July 3, 1863. It was night when I woke up and I had a dead body half on me and I was still lying there. They had thought I was dead, and they was still too busy picking up wounded to do much sorting out for burying. I had to croak a couple of times when there was somebody near enough, and they found me and got me to the boys. They didn’t bring me to the field hospital, being as I wasn’t bleeding or nothing.
Well, the boys was pretty surprised to see me still among the living but I knew somehow – I had senses I didn’t know I had till then – that they wasn’t sure I was going to stay long. I asked ‘em for water, and after a while I got a little whiskey, but wine was better, easier, and then a while later more water, a little at a time.
My God, that night! I never want to spend another night like that one. The screaming was only here and there, mostly around the hospital tents, but the moaning and the calling out, that seemed to come from all directions, and the sheer concentrated misery of it! Like I say, I had extra senses that night; being hurt had stripped off a layer of skin, and what was left was all raw nerve endings. You understand, I’m talking in a figure of speech here. My actual back had a huge swelling to it, and I am told it turned amazing colors, the next few days, but that durn rifle never even broke the skin. The nerve endings I mean is how I felt everything. It was like I personally knew everybody who was getting an arm or a leg sawed off – or like I was the one holding ‘em down. And my mind somehow was holding the whole battlefield in it, three days’ worth. You know Lee said “it is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.” That was at Fredericksburg, I believe – while our men were getting just killed like sheep or cows, slaughtered with no chance. But that night I wasn’t thinking war was terrible or that we’d grow fond of it. I wasn’t thinking anything – I was feeling, and I don’t know how any mortal man can feel what I did, and live. I believe Mr. Lincoln did, some, and probably it was killing him right along.
I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t find a position that was even tolerable. I had to ask a couple of the boys to move me when I needed to turn over onto another side, and I tell you then I was scared in a way I’d never been scared when the Virginians were coming up at us. Getting killed is one thing, it’s too bad, but at least it’s over, you know? But if I was crippled? How was I going to live? How would I get back to my family? What exactly use would I be to anybody? If I was going to be paralyzed, I decided I’d help myself along when I got a chance. In the army it ain’t that hard to come across firearms! And I was an officer, I owned a pistol, wherever it had got to. But I thought I’d give it a little time, see what developed, see what the sawbones said. If it came to it that I had to take myself off, sooner or later the chance would come, and who knows, maybe I’d get better.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression I was thinking this all out. I couldn’t think! All I could do was feel, but this one thought was sort of mingled up in it. Everything else was groaning and campfire light and smoke – for some reason the smell of smoke was real strong – and rain.
Things are confused. I see myself lying out in the ground by a smoky fire, but I see myself lying on a cot inside a tent – my tent, maybe – begging the boys to help me find some comfortable way to lie down or sit or something! After a while they quit with the wine and went back to whiskey and this time it was better and I could hold it down.
Well. Between the tiredness and the whiskey and the relief after three days’ strain, because we’d whipped ‘em and we didn’t have any more to do right away, and the fever – there I was between two worlds, and in you popped.
Of course I didn’t have any idea you was real, just like you thought at the time. You was just a voice in my head, saying try to remember, Lee, Grant, Appomattox, and the war could be over in the next little while but probably wouldn’t be. I remembered, all right, because here is how I experienced you, my friend, and if it embarrasses you, well so what? It might embarrass you but it ain’t going to kill you. I experienced you like an angel from heaven! You poured out love on me, and I wasn’t so crazy I couldn’t know that something was going on – and suddenly my back stopped hurting!
Just like that, it stopped! Fever gone, everything, from one minute to the next. I never did understand what happened till I came over. In other words, I’m saying in-process-Joseph never did figure it out, just completed-Joseph. And I’m telling you – just bookmark it, as you say – in other versions of my life I hadn’t gotten fixed. But I can’t talk about that, not yet anyway.
Well! As far as the boys knew, the whiskey had finally caught up with me – it was probably four in the morning or something when you appeared – and the night was about over. But they saw me suddenly sleeping and once they settled it that I wasn’t dead – which was their first thought – they knew it was a mercy I could sleep at all. My orderly was right surprised when I woke up the next afternoon wanting coffee and grub. He’d figured me for a long convalescence. Not that I wasn’t plenty sore! But I could move, and I was in one piece, and there was one hell of a lot of work to be done, putting the pieces back together. So I just kept on “sojering.”
Nobody asked how I’d got better – we all had plenty of things on our minds – though a lot of ‘em did congratulate me and tell me they’d figured I was setting out to emigrate.
You think I told anybody what really happened? I did not. Sure upped my whiskey consumption for a while, though. But even there I couldn’t go too far. An angel comes fixes you, you going to go off on a tear and he’s maybe watching? It gave me a sense of being watched over that lasted – as David and you ought to know, though not Katrina, poor little thing.
Are you starting to get a sneaking idea why I been coming by this past month or so? And why I was among the first of our little community to surface? Time is a very funny thing, and we’re all cross-stitched back and forth.
I was wondering if the date was right (sorry!) and decided it probably was. Fortunately I have the journal for documentation, and there it is! It’s only a page but I’m too tired to copy it here (it’s 10 p. m. now).
Thank you, Joseph. If you owed me a debt, I consider it paid – but I never considered it a debt in the first place.
No, I know you didn’t – and you did get your own back healed, but that wasn’t as simple as you think “now.” Like I said, time is funny. Get some rest now.
Tempted to type it up.
Get some rest. It’s too much.
10:45 Out of nowhere the thought, “now maybe it’ll leave me alone!” But I don’t exactly want the Civil War to leave me alone. Maybe I should rephrase it – “maybe now it’ll fit into my life less disruptively.” Maybe I’ll have to watch the whole Civil War series again!
Here is my journal entry from July 4, 1994:
Back into altered states for the first time in a while. Talked to Josiah on the battlefield – as previously John Cotton years ago – many months ago, anyway, my time. Told him they could end the war probably, in the next 2 days – but wouldn’t. Told him to remember Appomattox, Lee, Grant. Said I was as far in his future as 1730 was in his past. He’s sort of in an altered state – will remember it as such. (“will”??)
He had the sense of carrying a sofa!? But it was a block of wood he was clawing on, hacking at. Don’t know why. Visual impairment due to the blow on the back.
I worked on healing his back so as to heal mine. And was told the song running through my head, from Ken Burns’ film, was to keep my mind on the war.
Did it work? Too early to tell – but it feels like it.
Who can I call to discuss it? Put it on the internet.
Posted a long description of Cotton and Smallwood and back problems etc. Probably made a fool of myself publicly. But what the hell. It did happen as I describe it.
(Feb 4, ’06) I remembered, typing this up tonight, that in ’94 I was thinking that Joseph (or Josiah, as I sometimes thought his name was) had been injured on July 2, with the Minnesota regiment that took 82% casualties, can’t remember why I thought that. I had wondered vaguely why I thought to make the connection on July 4 rather than July 2. Joseph having been injured July 3 and my coming to him early July 4 would make sense, but I don’t know of any reason why the dates have to align.